The YET… painted on my classroom door.
Yet… it is a tiny but powerful word. All may seem out of reach, insurmountable, unattainable, lost even, until yet comes along and brings with it light and hope, faith and determination. Yet is a way to have your attempts at something, your mistakes and failures, feel like steps towards a goal. Yet has the power to ease frustration and have your many tries feel a bit like strength training. Yet can also bring with it a sense of deep learning and hard work, with perseverance the goal. That is huge… to have the journey be where the riches lie rather than the destination. And let’s be real, once you reach your goal isn’t there another yet on the horizon, another higher peak to reach for?
Yet…does not always have to change things in life-altering ways… it can simply propel you to think more positively and lead you to exploring more opportunities, different paths. For example… I always wanted to play musical instrument but didn’t have one…yet? I had dabbled in many as a kid but never stuck with anything. I also love to sing so I thought it would be fun to be able to play instrument and sing along. I have always been in awe of people that do this with ease and beauty, I longingly wanted to be part of that crowd… but I didn’t know how, it was too hard, too much work, too much time (do you hear the downward spiral of thoughts?). Until… I decided to try the ukulele but hadn’t found one…yet. Purchased one then picked it up started strumming, didn’t sound great…yet. I was playing (I use this term loosely at this point) but I didn’t know any songs…yet. So, I jumped on the internet, downloaded an app, now I had songs to play but no one to listen…yet? I shared my new love of playing/singing with my ukulele with friends and found a friend who always wanted to sing but didn’t have the courage…yet. Now we sing together and sound great but but haven’t found the right venue to go public…yet. Do you see what I mean? Yet is the power that pulls you, encourages you, leads you to the next yet. It is a compassionate force that gently reminds you that you can do more, you can be more. It is a growth mind set that is simple and concise, tiny but mighty. I don’t mean to sound trite but I have seen the power of yet transform the thinking process and re-frame the negative thoughts… I have experienced it!.
As you may (or may not) have read in my last post I am an elementary school teacher and many of my students come to me with an intense need to be right on the first try, to have all the skills on board for learning at the first pass. This, however, is not the reality of learning. They are highly capable or gifted kids that are not used to having to work too hard to understand, not comfortable with making mistakes and growing from them. In the beginning of the year, there is often a LOT of negative self talk, shame of failures and emotional upset when mistakes happen. Because of this I thought I would try the power of yet out on them… have yet flip the script. I started using yet as an exclamation, a reminder, a way of punctuating a statement to help students re-frame their goal. “Jackson, you did it that time. You may not understand how to add fractions easily yet… but your determination is great!” “Carmen, I love how much effort you put into your writing piece and although it may not be complete yet… I recognize how much better you understand sentence structure and your writing is getting better with each draft.” Or simply having the students repeat with me, “ We may not have ____ …yet, but we will!” Do you see the difference yet makes? It isn’t whether the skills are learned quickly it is about taking the time to learn them deeply. In other words you may not have the skill down pat… yet, but you will… somehow this little powerful word has made a huge difference for my students. I hear kids saying to each other often as a way to encourage their peers, to remind them to try again. Less tears, less discomfort, less self shaming… and that is a big win!
Personally, I haven’t always relied on yet. However, over the last few years I have come to lean into yet often. While trudging through my husband’s cancer diagnosis and the myriad of issues that accompany that; emotional struggles, physical ailments, complete lack of knowledge about said diagnosis and how to manage learning all we could about it, paired with trying to have continuity in our regular life, it quickly became very clear to me that allowing yet in to my life was necessary. Yet, in fact, became my saving grace, a life raft in a sea of uncertainty. Yet afforded me the freedom to fail and learn, to fall and rise, to break down and get back up again. Yet let me tune out when I needed mental break and then lead me back to the knowledge that it is okay to not have it all perfect, all right, all together. Yet reminded me that even when you think you “have it all together” there is still more to learn, higher peaks to reach … yet is an ever moving target, supporting and encouraging me to do and be better. I picture yet as my silent cheerleader on the sidelines, reminding and guiding me to reframe my negative thoughts.
I have the word “YET…” painted in big letters on my classroom door. My students and I use it to reframe our thinking when we need a little support. We use it as part of our verbal call and response when we are not quite there…yet. We point to it and repeat it when we are so close to a concept, when frustration creeps in, or when we have been working really hard and need a little encouragement. It is a prompt, a touchstone to all who walk through my classroom door; student, parent, teacher, administrator, custodial staff, guests, etc…, we do not have it all learned...yet, but we are working hard to get there and then once we are there… it is time to follow to where the next yet will lead us.
Where will your yet take you, next?